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Posts Tagged ‘Eurostar

A snail-like top speed

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Why has it taken Eurostar 20 years to start running trains to Marseille and Amsterdam? The problem was, there were no genuine high speed lines in Britain for the trains to run on, according to an article on the ‘Citymetric’ website.

'Eurostar is expanding to Marseille and Amsterdam. But why has it taken 20 years?', Paul Prentice, Citymetric, 17 Apr 2015

[Eurostar is expanding to Marseille and Amsterdam. But why has it taken 20 years?, Paul Prentice, Citymetric, 17 Apr 2015]

There were only the East and West Coast Main Lines, with a relatively snail-like top speed of 125mph. As a result, journey times on the UK side could not match the genuine high speed networks on mainland Europe, and while British Rail did begin running a shadow service of regional trains connecting with Eurostar at Waterloo in 1995, these trains ran almost empty. They’d ended completely by 1997.

In any case, a nine-hour rail journey time between Glasgow and London simply couldn’t compete with pioneering budget airlines. […]

Aside from how to get trains through the tunnel, there are also questions over the lack of capacity on the rail network in northern France. High Speed 1, the line between the Channel Tunnel and St Pancras International, is only about half full, which allows for excellent reliability on the British side – but what happens when high speed trains meet congestion at the other end? Without French investment in their equivalent infrastructure, LGV Nord, the “paths” do not exist, and the delays might stack up.

This sounds like a load of old nonsense. Firstly, the rail journey time between Glasgow and London is not nine hours.

Secondly, the prior non-existence of through services between London and Marseille, and London and Amsterdam, cannot be a result of there being “no genuine high speed lines in Britain to run on”.

Thirdly, had they started running, the Nightstar trains would have been loco-hauled, and unable to run at more than ~160 km/h, even on new-build lines.

Fourthly, the idea that the LGV line to Paris is “approaching capacity” is questionable (especially in respect of the section between Calais and Lille). HS1 was, in essence, designed to French specifications (signalling included), so the line capacity on either side of the Channel is probably the same.


Written by beleben

April 21, 2015 at 9:00 am

Posted in England, High speed rail

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The cost of selling Eurostar International Limited

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The UK government has reached agreement for the sale of its entire interest in Eurostar International Limited (“Eurostar”) for £757.1m.

[UK Government reaches agreement on the sale of its entire interest in Eurostar for £757.1m, gov_uk, 4 March 2015]

The Chancellor, George Osborne, and the Chief Secretary, Danny Alexander announced today that the UK government has reached agreement for the sale of its entire interest in Eurostar International Limited (“Eurostar”) for £757.1m.

A consortium comprising Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and Hermes Infrastructure has agreed to acquire government’s 40% stake in Eurostar for £585.1m. The sum exceeds expectations for the 40% stake when the government announced that it was inviting offers for its stake in October 2014. Eurostar has, on closing of the sale of the government stake, agreed to redeem HMG’s preference share, providing a further £172m for the exchequer.

[…] Founded 50 years ago, CDPQ is a long-term institutional investor that manages funds primarily for 33 public and para-public pension and insurance plans. As at December 31, 2014, it held C$226 billion in net assets. As one of Canada’s leading institutional fund managers, CDPQ invests globally in major financial markets, private equity and real estate. It also brings a strong track record of global infrastructure investment, with an investment portfolio valued at over C$10 billion. CDPQ holds the highest credit ratings from DBRS, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s.

Hermes Infrastructure, part of Hermes Investment Management, is a UK-based fund managing approximately £3 billion on behalf of clients including the Hermes GPE Infrastructure Fund (“HIF”). Hermes Infrastructure is focused on delivering enhanced risk-adjusted returns for investors through a range of investment strategies and a diversified infrastructure portfolio.

SNCF and SNCB – the other shareholders in Eurostar – have the option (the “Pre-emption Right”) to acquire HMG’s 40% stake for a 15% premium to the agreed price of £585.1m. Closing of the sale to the CDPQ and Hermes Infrastructure consortium is conditional on SNCF and SNCB not exercising the Pre-emption Right. The transaction is also conditional on regulatory approval.

Of course, the proceeds of the sale are just a small fraction of the amount of public cash put into Eurostar, since it was set up.

Extract from 'Alstom Transport v Eurostar International Ltd [2012] EWHC 28 (Ch)'

European Commission approval of GB state aid to Eurostar

Written by beleben

March 4, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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How reliable are HS2 cost estimates?

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Earlier this month, the cost of HS2’s proposed Washwood Heath rolling stock facility was officially estimated at £51 million (2nd quarter 2011 prices), i.e., less than half the cost of the (smaller) Calvert infrastructure depot.

HS2 London – West Midlands cost estimate, January 2015 (source: HS2 Ltd)
Element £m (2Q 2011)
1.0 Land and property 1.1 London Euston 579.82
1.2 London Metropolitan 221.96
1.3 Country South 319.12
1.4 Country North 306.09
1.5 West Midlands Metropolitan 315.50
Sub total 1742.48
2.0 Tunnel works 2.1 Tunnels 2427.17
2.2 Portals 213.02
2.3 Shafts 358.13
Sub total 2998.32
3.0 Civil engineering 3.1 Cuttings and embankments 1309.00
3.2 Retaining walls 339.29
3.3 Bridges 450.95
3.4 Viaducts 836.89
3.5 Roads and pavings 391.91
3.6 Other structures 352.78
Sub total 3680.82
4.0 Stations 4.1 Euston 1506.37
4.2 Old Oak 798.84
4.3 Birmingham interchange
4.4 Curzon 283.58
Sub total 2865.87
5.0 Depots and stabling 5.1 Washwood Heath 51.01
5.2 Calvert 136.62
5.3 Heathrow Express relocation 152.87
5.4 London sidings 0
5.5 Other facilities 96.96
Sub total 437.47
6.0 Railway systems 6.1 P-way 546.56
6.2 Signals 113.30
6.3 Telecoms 93.02
6.4 Electrical contact systems 162.62
6.5 Electrical distribution
6.6 Station and depot systems 192.31
6.7 Tunnel systems 167.81
Sub total 1698.44
7.0 On-network works 7.1 Civil engineering 0
7.2 Stations and depots 0
7.3 Railway systems 528.67
Sub total 528.67
8.0 Indirect costs 8.1 Corporate 1002.99
8.2 Project management 820.58
8.3 Design 395.36
Sub total 2218.93
Gross point estimate 16171.01

For comparison,

  • Eurostar’s Temple Mills depot cost ‘up to’ £402 million, according to Lord Davies of Oldham (Hansard, 1 December 2004)
  • Network Rail’s South Wales resignalling was estimated at £400 million in 2011
  • the ‘Birmingham Gateway’ refresh of the existing New Street station was budgeted in excess of £600 million.

Written by beleben

January 30, 2015 at 11:18 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Stranded in the dark

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No light or information

No light or information

More than a thousand rail passengers were left stranded for up to eight hours aboard two Eurostar trains last night after a power cut in northern France, Mail Online reported.

[“More than 1,300 Eurostar passengers stuck in the dark for NINE HOURS after power cut leaves them stranded on train from London to Brussels”, MO, 21 Nov 2014]

Furious travellers said they were left in pitch darkness with no fresh air or flushing toilets after a power cable snapped above a section of track between Lille and Calais.

One train travelling from London to Brussels with 600 passengers on board was held up from 8pm until 4.40am at which point a diesel-powered train finally arrived to move it on.
A spokesman for Eurostar admitted the passengers would have been left in the dark while the trains were stranded as they are completely dependent on power from the overhead lines and carry no emergency back-up.
There have been a number of breakdowns on the cross-Channel service over the year, with the run up to Christmas 2009 being particularly disastrous.

In late September of that year overhead power line dropped on to a train arriving at St Pancras station in London, activating a circuit breaker and delaying 11 other trains.

Two days later power was lost on a section of line outside Lille, delaying passengers on two evening Eurostars.

Then, during heavy snow in December 2009, four trains broke down inside the Channel Tunnel after leaving France, affecting some 2,000 passengers.

The incident is a reminder of the need to consider ‘bad case’ scenarios at the design as well as the operating stage. So far as can be established, HS2 is not being designed as a resilient system. All the same, it’s surprising that it took so long to provide a rescue loco on the lightly used Calais — Lille track.

You can’t move a tee-gee
You can’t move a gee-vee without a spark
This gun’s for hire
even if we’re just stranded in the dark

[apologies to Bruce]

Written by beleben

November 21, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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The ‘success’ of Eurostar

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The success of Eurostar?

Investment bank UBS has been hired to handle the sale of the British government’s 40% stake in Eurostar before the election, the Daily Express reported (13 Oct). Earlier this year, HM Treasury took over the stake from London & Continental Railways.

[‘Osborne to signal start of Eurostar sale’, Alison Little, Daily Express,
October 13, 2014]

[…] The chancellor will say he is looking for bids by the end of the month and is hopeful the privatisation of the Channel tunnel train operator will raise up to £300m.

Britain has part-owned Eurostar for the past 20 years, but according to Osborne the sale is part of the Treasury’s plan to reduce the national debt by offloading state assets.

The “success of Eurostar” has encouraged the government to build a second high-speed line linking London with cities in the Midlands and the north, and its sale would lead to a “small” reduction in Britain’s £1.4 trillion national debt, the Guardian reported.

[‘UK government to sell Eurostar stake before general election’, 13 Oct 2014]

The French state-owned railway company, SNCF, owns 55% of Eurostar, while the state-owned Belgian company, SNCB, owns the remaining 5%.

SNCF has indicated that it is not interested in buying Britain’s stake but has a “last look” right that would allow it to come in at the end of the bidding process and pick up the holding at a 15% premium.

Pension companies, investment funds and infrastructure funds are seen as the likeliest bidders, with the UK government hopeful that the sale will be completed in the first quarter of 2015.
Other state-owned assets being lined up for sale include the legacy Royal Mail pension assets, the uranium enrichment company Urenco, the income-contingent student loan book and further public sector wireless communication spectrum.

Eurostar looks like a ‘bargepole’ asset. As with HS1 Ltd, pension companies or investment funds will be looking for big sweeteners to take on the stake.

Written by beleben

October 13, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Posted in High speed rail, Politics

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Leader of the wack

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Centro graphic claimed that HS2 would allow sub-3-hour journeys from Birmingham to Paris The West Midlands must be served by direct high speed rail services to Europe “if it is to take full advantage of the tremendous opportunity HS2 brings”, said the chairman of the West Midlands transport authority Centro.

[Go HS2 weblog, Posted on February 27, 2013]

[Councillor] John McNicholas, chairman of Centro, said high speed rail services would be able to reach Paris and Brussels from Birmingham in less than three hours.

Through services to other cities on the growing European high speed rail network, such as Amsterdam and Frankfurt, would also be possible.

“High speed rail presents a tremendous opportunity for the West Midlands bringing jobs and investment,” he said.

“Journey times from Birmingham to London, Leeds and Manchester will be halved by high speed services, but it is essential we’re also able to take full advantage of improved European connections.”

Cllr McNicholas said it would be a missed opportunity if high speed rail passengers from the West Midlands had to change trains or even stations in London in order to access international services.

He said provision must be made for passport and customs control at Birmingham’s city centre station in Moor Street and at the Birmingham Interchange station.

“I welcome the proposed direct link between HS2 and the existing HS1 line from London to Europe but it must be capable of allowing passengers in the West Midlands fast, direct rail travel to the continent.”

Cllr McNicholas said the current proposal for a single track HS1-HS2 link may prove inadequate to meet future demand and added that the West Midlands was working closely with Transport for London and other authorities to ensure UK regions could be served by European connections.

“I urge the Government to consider a fully segregated two track link between HS2 and HS1, which could cater not only for high speed rail services from the West Midlands to a range of destinations on the continent but which would also facilitate new high speed rail links between the region and economic centres in East London and Kent.

“High speed rail is great news for our region and we want to see fast, direct links with European cities.”

Over a decade ago, Regional Eurostar and Nightstar carriages were ordered for services from Britain’s provincial cities to Europe via the Channel Tunnel, but low demand ensured they were never used for that purpose.

HS2 would only reduce the Birmingham-to-Europe rail journey time by just over half an hour, so it’s unlikely such trains could run without heavy subsidies. Is councillor McNicholas proposing that council tax be used to subsidise rail travel to Europe?

If HS2 paths were reallocated away from Euston and onto HS1, that would surely reduce loadings, revenue, and the benefit cost ratio. HS1 was designed as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and its domestic connectivity is poor. It would be difficult to envision a viable HS2 through service to towns like Maidstone and Canterbury.

Written by beleben

February 27, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Not-so High Speed One, part two

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Part one

Southeastern train operating company map, showing HS1 and conventional services

By road, London to Margate is about 78 miles [126 km] and a ‘1 hour, 50 minute’ journey.

By Southeastern High Speed rail, it is ‘1 hour, 28 minutes’ — which works out at just over 50 mph [81 km/h].

Is that ‘high speed’?

Charles Horton in the Southeastern video about HS1 startupAt the time of writing, the Southeastern website hosts a video about the launch of the company’s High Speed commuter services, in which managing director Charles Horton stated that they had increased capacity by “around 5%”.

Does 5% represent a transformational change in capacity?

Although HS1 is signalled for ‘twenty trains per hour per direction’, the standard Southeastern service only involves four trains per hour. According to an article by Andrew Roden in November 2007’s International Railway Journal, Eurostar was to be allocated eight paths per hour. However, in 2012, Eurostar only used around two of them (the company’s SNCF-style scheduling does not employ regular intervals).

There are many lessons to be learned from HS1. But they are of no concern to the special interests pushing the HS2 project.

Written by beleben

January 7, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS1, HS2

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